Lab tests can inform a coach or personal trainer how to adjust your exercise program optimally and dial in your personal best program. How should you test? Which tests matter? What should you share? I’m addressing it here and now at the beginning of a New Year (and decade) for good reason. As a middle-aged woman, this matters so much!
From heart rate to movement assessments, personal training has tried to moved into more uniquely assessing an individual. Then the task was matching the results with a training program to optimize health or fitness. But what happens when there are hormone fluctuations and changes in gut health that change a woman’s status?
That’s where lab tests come in. Here are the ones I love and use personally, and share with my clients when we’ve done the foundation work and still want to see more results or find a missing puzzle piece.
Cortisol is particularly important. You want to know what’s happening to estrogen (all types), testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, and several others too. It’s really good to check thyroid – but certain thyroid tests matter more. You want to know your thyroid antibodies. When you test can be so very important. If you’ve worked with a health coach and you’ve made the appropriate changes but its not working then test.
If for instance you have made all the changes …
(You really don’t want to skip ahead to lab tests first if you haven’t made the changes you’re responsible first. The exception to the rule? You won’t. You refuse to make the lifestyle changes recommended to you. You won’t prioritize sleep, or reduce the coffee, or increase the veggies, or try an elimination and reintroduction diet, or lift weights and eliminate endurance exercise.
If that’s you, then a test may help. Seeing the test results can help you be more compliant. I get it. Some of us have to have a hard number, and pay for it, even when we have the physical evidence what we’re doing is not working).
… and you’re still not seeing results after consistently applying changes, then testing would be what I’d recommend for you. Always give thought to what you’re going to do with the results. You’ll be back to the need to take action. A pill or cream, or deciding to try alternative therapy, still don’t work if you don’t apply the very basic exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle (sleep, stress, rest) changes that are up to you.
My Favorite Labs for Hormones
You can see two of my favorite panels here. One is a quickie put together for active Flipping 50 community members and one is a more extensive look at you and what’s happening right now. https://yourlabwork.com/flipping-50/
And I also like the Dutch test periodically (this is the 3rd of my favorites) for looking at hormones. I’m going to open the kimono for real soon and share the review of my own labs with a friend and doctor. Together we’re putting the program together that is key to losing those 10-lbs of perfect storm. (Stay tuned to this in early 2020)
Side note: Disclosure – this is humorous that I’m spending so much time with clients looking at labs, coaching them on the changes they make after labs, and relying on labs when clients are stuck. Because literally going into grad school after having been an exercise physiology/exercise science undergrad I said, “I don’t want to be a lab rat.”
That in reference to all of my classmates who were doing muscle biopsies and standing beside the VO2 max testing cart for hours a day during their grad work. I went the other way and though I had to do my share of testing as a graduate assistant, I studied exercise psychology because I knew we weren’t getting the habit change to stick with enough people. So, it is definitely full circle that labs now have become the way to discover root cause- or root of motivation for change- when all else fails.
Test, don’t guess.
I offer myself up as exhibit A. After a year that began (Dec 23, 2018) with mold exposure for 6 months, followed by several major stressors that then included a sudden move and loss of business and 1/3 of my household items, along with other stressors both good and bad, and Ironman triathlon (Nov 24, 2019) training, my body was pushing back hard. I’d gained 9 lbs. So even with awareness of all I needed to do personally, I was still holding weight.
And no, bless you for thinking it but it’s not muscle.
(Psst.. during long endurance training it’s more typical to lose muscle than gain it – it’s not ideal for older adults to only endurance train! You’ve got to work the weights hard to offset those losses).
Even after a month of recovery (Dec 29, 2019), minimal and easy exercise, and lots of detox methods and green smoothies, there’s been minimal change in the weight. Those habits usually work in days for me to literally see and feel change.
So it’s time to test. Because though vanity plays a part- doesn’t it always? It’s about a mysterious 9 lbs that can’t be explained. No significant change in habits changed that would have contributed. If anything common sense would tell you weight loss would have been more likely.
I like to test omega 3, magnesium, Vitamin D, and B vitamins, and ferritin levels. They’re so related to inflammation (Omega 3) and energy (Vitamin D, B vitamins, and Iron) and metabolism (magnesium). The sooner you know levels have changed the sooner you can alter (up or down) supplements you may be taking to optimize them.
I know you would be interested in calcium but calcium in your blood does not indicate what is in your bones. In fact it can give you a false sense of security when in fact your blood is “stealing” from your bones. The best determinant of whether the amount of calcium in your diet is being absorbed is a bone density scan.
If your homocysteine or A1C levels are elevated (and omega 3 levels are low) inflammation may be suggesting a change is necessary to see greater results from your exercise. The change you need may be less exercise.
Think of it like having acne. All the things you try or your teens do/did that normally might be good are going to be bad because your skin is already saying “enough!”
So, really cutting back on exercise, and adding relaxation, along with other inflammation-reducing therapies can help you regain your equilibrium so you can get positive results again from fitness.
If your CRP levels come back high in a recent blood test that can indicate some micronutrient insufficiencies and you can confirm them if you’ve recently tested.
How You Do Lab Tests
If you have great insurance use it! If you like me like to take control, rarely see a doctor, and don’t have one who would order the type of test you want as often as you like to know you may want to order your own. I check micronutrient status frequently once or twice a year. I’ll test hormones more regularly too if I feel it’s changing or I’ve changed my status.
If you want to do your own self-directed labs you can look here at yourlabwork.com/flipping-50 for my source of labs.
You can use flipping50now for $200 off either of the Transformation Panel or Elite Athlete packages most often used by my clients.
Or choose your own options and use Flipping50 for $20 off.
1) Order your labs (see the codes above to save) My favorites again: Elite Panel, Transformation Panel, or the Dutch (specifically for sex hormones and cortisol)
2) Once the lab order arrives, test your hormones at a local lab (or with the kit for Dutch)
3) Request a session with me by sending your labs and asking for a session at firstname.lastname@example.org Have a 30-minute consultation with Debra to review a) your lab results, b) current exercise program, 3) and a simple self-assessment that provides you with:
- an up-to-date exercise plan review
- nutrition & supplement information linked to your results
- further or future testing considerations
- questions for your practitioner
*it’s not my scope or role to diagnose nor to treat. I provide you with questions and information so you can consider the options available to you.
Your labs are back within about a week –it’s not long at all so you can get some advice and start creating a plan for a New Year and decade!
Your lab tests results are something that change over time and when you’re fluctuating or applying a new program testing more frequently (I’ll do every 6 months for micronutrients or for hormones pre and post a new plan). Your DNA though, can also give you insight into best training methods for YOU, best ways to eat, your own challenges that you haven’t been able to figure out may suddenly have an explanation. DNA is not going to change.
Yet, you can change the expression of your DNA by changing your habits. Fitness can get easier and optimal weight can too if you’re eating for your genetics instead of the most popular diet at the time.
I for instance tested last June. However, a lot has changed for me since then (a move, a heavy training schedule, several stressors, and my weight change for no other apparent reason), so just a little over 6 months later I know I need a more accurate snapshot. I won’t always test that frequently but it’s likely I will again in 6 months after implementing a plan of attack when I get results.
The Personalization of Your Plan
The integration of your hormones, micronutrients, and your DNA can give you a powerful plan for determining your best fitness strategies. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your fitness and nutrition we now know are as unique as your thumbprint – as your DNA.
It’s interesting that we’ve adopted heart rate training, counting our steps, minutes, miles, reps and yet you may not even know what the target should be. Someone says 10,000 steps is good. Someone says that 3-5 days of cardio for 20-60 minutes is good. But the science of those recommendations, guidelines, and position statements is based on a large pool of people who are nothing like you.
I’m more and more frequently asked after a post like this if I can do a single session to set up a program for someone. I’ve been coaching women in midlife for 36 years now, and I know that behavior change takes time. I also have a limited amount of time to spare. So working with clients long term is why you’ll find I offer 90 day coaching. If you prefer to have a one-time session and follow through on your own I have a special rate for early January 2020. It’s by invitation only because my time is limited. First come first serve!
If you order labs or DNA through the links here the complimentary consultation is 30 minutes. If you’d prefer a more comprehensive session or if you have labs or DNA testing elsewhere and would like to review with Debra for:
- a one-time comprehensive lab review
- food and activity log review
- self-assessment review
- current exercise plan review and suggestions
Request an invitation. Send specific details about whether you have recent labs already, you are ordering them via links here, and what you most need help with. We’ll send you a link for Results Review coaching if there are still spots available.
The single 45-minute session is $295. You’ll get strategies for moving forward on your own or the option to apply the consultation fee to 90-Day VIP coaching.
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Coming Soon: DNA testing